Friday, May 30, 2008

Review - Colorful World (Nosedive Productions)

Stage Buzz Review by Byrne Harrison

Photo by Aaron Epstein

Imagine a world in which an actual superhero exists. Impervious to pain and bullets. Human, but somehow more than human. What reaction would that inspire from those of us who were under his protection? Gratitude? Fear? Envy? In Nosedive Productions’ latest endeavor, Colorful World by James Comtois, the answer is as complex as the cast of characters brought to life in front of our eyes.

And what a cast of characters it is. First among them is Overman (Patrick Shearer), the emotionless, blank-eyed savior of humanity. He kept the Twin Towers from falling and wrapped up the war in Iraq, but he couldn’t save New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. It was his appearance in 1988 that led various wannabe crime-fighters to don capes and tights and take aim at society’s dark underbelly. While many of them proved ineffectual, some made their marks on society. Among those were Ramses (Abe Goldfarb), an Egyptian-themed hero, his lover Johnny Patriot (Christopher Yustin), a loose cannon called The Peacekeeper (Ben VandenBoom), and the sexy Tigress (Jessi Gotta). After some mishaps, the government labeled them all vigilantes and forced them to hang up their uniforms and become ordinary citizens again.

For The Peacekeeper, retirement robbed him of his reason for living. For Tigress, living life as plain old Karen Fisher from Brooklyn offered a peaceful, albeit boring, existence, tended to by geeky fanboy Guy Madison (Mac Rogers). Jeffrey Michaels, the former Ramses, leveraged his superhero past to help his industrialist present, leading him to be one of the richest men in America. But betrayed by a government that stole his ability to be Ramses, and he suspects, was behind the death of Johnny Patriot, Jeffrey nurses a dark side.

When worldwide chaos, the disappearance of Overman, and the possibility that Overman is not the only one of his kind bring Jeffrey and Karen back together, costumes come back on and fists fly in an effort to save mankind. But from whom?

Complex and epic in scope, Comtois’ Colorful World both pays homage to the pulp comics that inspired it and transcends them by making his characters more human than any that ever graced the pages of those visually colorful, though morally black and white, pages. To give too much detail will ultimately destroy the surprise and intrigue that Comtois has built into his story. Suffice it to say, no one is what he appears.

Colorful World features some outstanding performances, first among them by Patrick Shearer, whose Overman is strong, morally true, and really, really creepy. Shearer does a terrific job both at playing Overman’s “otherness” and in bringing him back down to earth in later scenes. Jessi Gotta is excellent as Tigress. Forced into the superhero racket by a pushy stage mother, Tigress wants to be a force for good when all the press wants is an adorable sex kitten. Gotta lets this disillusionment subtly tint most of the early scenes, and when Tigress is offered the chance to don her uniform and fight crime one more time, she lets that earlier disillusionment melt away and replaces it with an almost ferocious excitement. In addition, she does an outstanding job with Qui Nguyen and Alexis Black’s fight choreography. Abe Goldfarb gets to do some excellent work, especially as Jeffrey Michaels struggles with his inner demons.

Director Pete Boisvert does a solid job with the production; the only things that slow the production down are the numerous scene changes. While much of this is covered with faux news reports that help the audience with exposition, at times the changes are still too slow. Much of this is due to the extremely small stage at the 78th Street Theatre Lab which makes it hard to keep any permanent set pieces onstage. One wonders what this imaginative production team would be capable of in a larger space.

If you are the kind of person who would avoid a play about superheroes because you have been burned by the recent spate of horrible superhero movies or because you think of them as being for children, have no fear. Colorful World is a well-written, well-acted, and complex play.

Written by James Comtois
Directed by Pete Boisvert
Stage Manager: Stephanie Williams
Fight Choreographers: Qui Nguyen and Alexis Black
Lighting Designer: Phil Shearer
Makeup Designer: Leslie Hughes
Costume Designer: Meredith Magoun
Set Design: Pete Boisvert and Stephanie Williams
Projection Coordinator: Rebecca Comtois
Projection Graphic Designer: Pete Boisvert
Projection Video Designer: Marc Landers
Projection Asst Video Designer: Ben VandenBoom
Board Op: Sandy Yaklin
Producers: Pete Boisvert, James Comtois, Rebecca Comtois, Marc Landers, Patrick Shearer, Stephanie Williams

Featuring: Patrick Shearer (Overman -Tom Shanley), Jessi Gotta (Tigress – Karen Fisher), Abe Goldfarb (Ramses – Jeffrey Michaels), Mac Rogers (Guy Madison), Zack Calhoon (John), Marc Landers (The Void), Christopher Yustin (Johnny Patriot). Colorful World also featured voiceover work by Pete Boisvert, Isaac Butler, Rebecca Comtois, Stephanie Cox-Williams, Desmond Dutcher, Brian Enk, Shay Gines, Matt Johnston, Marsha Martinez, and Brian Silliman.

The 78th Street Theatre Lab
236 W. 78th St., 2nd Floor

Thurs.-Sat. 8 PM
May 8-10, 15-17, 22-24, 29-31